Of travel and photography

By Henrylito D. Tacio


As a journalist, I have two things that I like most – aside from meeting and talking with some of the famous people around the world.  Those two things are travel and photography.  And if you are a journalist, you ought to like, if not love, these two things.


Who doesn’t like to travel and see new places and meet new faces?  Along the way, travel enriches not only your mind but also your experience which, according to one adage, “the best teacher.”  Some places are quaint; others are eerie if not weird.  But there are also places that are exotic, rustic, brilliant, and breathtaking. 


“Travel not only stirs the blood – it also gives birth to the spirit,” said Alexandra David-Neel. 


My very first air travel happened in the late 1980s when I was invited to be one of the writers of an agroforestry kit book in Silang, Cavite.  I didn’t know anything about aviation so I was hesitant at first.  But when I was inside the plane, I was mesmerized.   I tried to find my seat and settled there.   I paused for a moment and then told myself, “This is it!”


But it was also my first time to go to Manila.  They told me that the metropolis is huge and you easily get lost once you are there.  “What if I really get lost?  What will happen to me?  Where will I go?”  Those were the questions that came into my mind.


For one hour and twenty minutes, from Davao to Manila, I was on air.  The flight was smooth.  We landed safely.  I followed other passengers to the arrival area.  Together with us on the plane was heartthrob Gabby Concepcion, who was having some show in Davao the day before. 


I never paid attention to him since I was looking for my sister Jean, who was supposed to see me at the airport.  Ladies who in the arrival area were mesmerized by the actor but not my sister never bothered.  She looked at him once and then continued searching for a familiar face – me, of course.  We had not seen each other for more than a year and when she saw me, she waved her hands and said, “Manoy.”  Although I did not see her immediately, but the voice was very familiar. 


We talked for a few minutes and gave her some pasalubongs.   Then, I told her I have to go since the vehicle who would bring me to Silang, Cavite was already there waiting for me.  I hugged her and we bade goodbye.


Since then, I have been to other places in the Philippines: Laguna, Isabela, Pangasinan, Zambales, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Cebu, Negros, Iloilo, Bohol, and Palawan.  I have also been to most parts in Mindanao: the three provinces of Davao, Comval, Agusan del Sur and del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, Zamboanga del Sur and del Norte, North and South Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Saranggani.


The first time I travel abroad was to Bangkok, Thailand.  I was in the mid-20s at that time.  After that, I have been to countries in these continents: North America, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and Asia.  The only continent I have not visited so far is South America (wish I can be in Brazil or Argentina).


The only drawback about traveling abroad is the long flight.  Imagine flying on air for almost 14 hours, non-stop, from Tokyo, Japan to Detroit, United States.  The non-stop travel time from Singapore to Johannesburg, South Africa is more than 12 hours.  Air travel from Singapore to Melbourne, Australia is about ten hours.


Oftentimes, those long travels left me haggard and tired.  I usually cannot sleep well the night before my flight.  During the travel, I cannot sleep also.  So, by the time the plane touch down my final destination, I don’t have enough sleep.  Even when I get to my destination, I don’t have much sleep due to jet lag.


Am I complaining?  Of course not! Because travel brings me to places I have not been to before.  And it also entails me to do my other hobby, which is photography.  When I was still a kid, I imagined myself taking pictures of some celebrities.  When I finally had my own camera, I took pictures of my family, nature, and other subject matters.


I really didn’t know much about taking pictures – until I met Donald “Don” Rutledge, one of America’s most awarded photojournalists.    His travels over a lifetime have taken him into 143 countries and all fifty of the United States.  His work has included international assignments from the well-known Black Star picture agency in New York, civil right efforts, including the documentation of the work of John Howard Griffin for his famous work, Black Like Me, to photo stories in Life magazine, Stern magazine in Germany, Paris-Match in France, numerous magazines in Canada, South America, Japan, Europe, and Asia.


I came to know and meet him when he was doing some assignments for The Commission, a publication of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He and Erich Bridges came to do a story of my former boss, Harold Ray Watson (the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay awardee for peace and international understanding).  This was in 1996.


Being a journalist, I was asked to accompany them.  During our travels in between or while walking, Don shared some thoughts about photography.  And that was how I get my first-hand information on taking pictures.  “When you visit a place, take as many pictures as you can,” he told me.  “There may not be a chance of you coming back to the same place.  So, when you return to your own place, you won’t say to yourself, ‘I should have taken such picture when I was there.’”


Despite all the accolades and awards he harvested through the years, Don was a humble man.  You can never tell that the guy has photographed a variety of famous people who were involved in numerous professions.  “The famous who impressed me most were kind, caring, and humble people in spite of their fame and talents,” he told me.  “That gave me great respect and appreciation for people with such extreme talents and yet who were not overcome by a personal pride of feeling superior above other people.”


During meals, he shared some tips on photography.  “New photographers can find excitement in isolating wonderful elements of our world and its people in that viewfinder of their camera,” he said.  On another occasion, he explained, “The excitement with photojournalism is the challenge to look beyond where the average person looks and capture that moment in film for viewers to enjoy.”


And that is what I have been doing when I travel abroad.  On this page are some photographs I have taken during my recent travels.  I may not be as good as my mentor, but I am hoping that in my own way, I have captured those “magical moments.”


What do you think? — ###


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